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Monday, July 28, 2014

Are you a mountain or a beach?

I love the beach. Always have. Growing up in Alabama, our family had limited resources so a trip to the Panhandle was a treat. Some of my favorite memories involve innertubes and waves pushing us across Panama City Beach. My Daddy would gently guide us to shore when we bobbed too far.

Today, whenever I sit on a beach, I close my eyes and hear the power of the waves crashing against rock and shore. I open them and see its vastness as it reaches beyond the horizon to places I can't see. Depths and worlds beyond my imagination. Yet, there's also a stillness and lull when the tide is low and the ocean seems to fall asleep. Leaving behind seashells, seaweed and other remnants of the day. 

This weekend, while in Monterey, California, we visited the Seaquarium. On its walls hung several quotes including these: "If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." Loren Eiseley "It tunnels into solid rocks and bores...keeps alive the sense of continuing creation and of the relentless drive of life." Rachel Carson. This is the essence of the ocean.

My husband, who grew up in South Florida only miles from the beach, loves the mountains. The one time of year his eyes twinkle and his shoulders relax is the first day on the slopes in Colorado. Driving into Beaver Creek each year, his demeanor visibly changes. He's home on the mountain. Whatever stresses weigh him down in life, he leaves at its base. He's lighter. As evinced by the way he traverses the mountain. Quickly, smoothly, flawlessly. 

In our forties, we've begun dreaming of the perfect place to retire. He talks of the mountains of North Carolina. I speak of the shores of California or someplace tropical. Complete opposites. For years, I've looked at this through the lens of past experience. I thought: "He loves the mountains because he grew up in South Florida and the mountains are exotic. I grew up in Alabama and the beach was the Summer mecca." But recently, I've come to understand our preferences in a different way.

They're, in fact, reflections of much more.

Mountains are solid. Unchanging. The hazards known. Should you choose to climb one, you can plot your route for decades with only minor changes. After five or ten years, you can return to the same point and follow a similar route with only small adjustments. 

Oceans are uncertain. Each day, the place the tide registers in the morning is markedly different than where it moves in the evening. You can find rocks or landmarks with which to give reference to where you begin, but within moments where you stand changes. Should you return a year later, it isn't the same.

My husband is concrete in every way. His belief, his friendships, his goals. His focus remains steadfast. As long as I've known him, his friends have never changed. The same people who were in our wedding almost sixteen years ago are people he speaks to regularly. His best friend is the one he had when he was five years old. They're the ones he relies on for support.

My friendships are fluid. The women who were my bridesmaids, the one who saw the birth of my daughter, I speak to rarely. My closest confidant is a woman I've known for just over a year. I used to see this as some kind of flaw, but now I understand it's who I am. My relationships come and go like a tide. They're symbiotic. Relationships that don't have expectations. A few remain as jagged rocks off the shore. Constant but distant. Those whom I can speak to after a year of silence and it's as if time never passed. Others last for a season. Full of love and joy but shifting.

Our beliefs also show our proclivity for mountains versus oceans. My husband's beliefs are solid. Unchanging. Just as a mountain embraces tides, winds, and the harsh realities of time, its essence remains the same. Its immovable nature both defines and anchors it. Yet, this results in indecision because of the belief in the permanency of those decisions.

My beliefs mirror the fluidity of the ocean. Of course, a few things are concrete because there must be a beach. A grounding. But many things I ponder allow for pliability. I'm always open to new perspectives and change. I love to absorb the ideas of others and allow it to shape my consideration. This can be seen as "wishy-washy" or noncommittal  It also causes a quick decisiveness because of my belief that decisions can be revisited.

After pondering why Jamie and I have such different ideas of paradise, I now understand. Loving the beach and loving the mountains is a reflection of who were are and how we believe.